If you spend much time on the internet, you may have gotten caught up in the swelling sea shanty craze.
(If not, take a moment to enjoy this rendition of “Soon May the Wellerman Come” and join the crew of the nautically-obsessed.)
Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, & Chanteys collected by Hal Willner
Not sure where to start? Pick up this wide ranging collection of shanties and work songs, featuring artists from John C. Reilly to Sting. Sung in styles ranging from classic to rock, Willner’s collection showcases these songs both as they were and in their more modern, evolved forms.
For a fully traditional experience, try this collection of shanties, which leans towards vocals only or just a few instruments. You can clearly hear the working nature of these songs – the call and response, and the pacing that would have kept a whole ship’s crew working in unison despite dangerous conditions.
Shanties from the Seven Seas collected by Stan Hugill
If you’re looking to really get into the details about how work songs, well, worked, try this collection: not only does it contain sheet music for various tunes but as much history for each as Hugill could find.
For a closer look at one of the industries that spawned sea shanties (and “The Wellerman” in particular), explore the world of whaling. One of the most dangerous jobs of its era, a captain who delivered such a prize could find himself greatly enriched. From the 17th through 19th centuries, whales were aggressively hunted for everything from baleen (for buggy whips and corset stays) to ambergris (for perfumes and incense) to oil for lamps and machinery.
Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer
Or if you’d just like a roaring good sea story, pick up the story of Jacky Faber, an orphaned girl who disguises herself as a boy and runs away to sea, in search of pirates and adventure.